Gifts For Pastel Artists For Under $150 or £100
This is the second in a range of articles looking at gifts for artists. The first focussed on small gifts for under $15.00 or £10.00, so I thought I'd add an article on larger, more expensive gifts. $150 should buy a rather nice mid-range gift for the artist in your life.
Of course, you could just take some of the small gift ideas and buy more of them, for example, rather than a sheet of Pastelmat, you could buy a whole pack of five sheets, and rather than a few sticks, or half sticks of pastel, you could buy a bigger pack.
Fisher 400 Paper
One paper I couldn't include in the under $15 or £10 article was Fisher 400. Whereas Pastelmat costs under £10.00 for a sheet larger than A1 size, a sheet of Fisher 400 is 27 1/" by 20" and costs £12.75, or around $16-$18.00 for around half the size of Pastelmat. However, if you really love your artist, you could buy them a whole pack of Fisher 400.
It's the paper I use for all my landscapes and seascapes since trying it earlier this year. The features I love about it are that it's a good heavy weight at 360gsm. It has a sharp, fine tooth that really hangs on to the pastel well, making it great for layering, but still fine enough for detailed work using Pitt pencils. Fisher 400 also has a natural straw colour and a slight texture to it, that I like to leave showing through in my finished work, although in the 'Sheltering Sheep' picture to the right, I haven't left any showing through. You can order from Tim Fisher at thecsc.co.uk
Sooper Edge Safety Ruler
A decent safety ruler is a real boon to the artist who likes to cut their own mats and mount their own work, and the Sooper Edge safety ruler is just about the best I've ever used. It also helps that the one I use is a beautiful electric purple and just the sight of it makes me feel cheerful.
The Sooper Edge is made from heavyweight aluminum and comprises a hand guard and a foot with a steel cutting edge. The base of the foot is felted, which prevents the ruler from skidding sideways when you start cutting the mat and the steel edge means that you get a really good sharp cut.
I use the Sooper Edge for cutting pastel papers and cutting mounts and get a good finish every time, so I'd really recommend this one. There are plenty of other safety rulers on the market, but they're not in such funky colours.
Cutting mats are also vital if you are going to cut your own mounts. I prefer the self-healing type that simply heals the cuts you make in it, so the surface is always stable and smooth. It's very difficult trying to cut a true line if the base you're cutting into is ridged with old cuts.
When I first began cutting my own mounts, I made a makeshift cutting mat by using the hardboard back of an old frame and sticking corrugated cardboard on to it, and actually this worked well enough for some good time, until I could afford a decent cutting mat. I do get a much better finish now that I'm using a professional surface to cut on.
Mats come in varying sizes and mine is large enough to accommodate the quite big pieces I create.
You could buy a useful set of Unison landscape pastels for around $100, which would contain 18 pastel sticks. The Landscape Set would give the artist enough of a range of pigments to get started with painting pastel landscapes, but without the huge cost of a full size set that would cost around $300. Or you could choose a specific range of pigments that the artist doesn't have, such as darks or blue-greens, or greys. Some suppliers stock half-sticks which are cheaper or which provide more sticks for the same price.
I use Unison pastels for most of my work, with a few Sennelier and Faber Castell Pitt pencils thrown in. A great gift would be to combine a set of pastels with a few sheets of paper, because the two really go together and it would be a shame to have the pastels, but nothing to use them on.